Fresh Thinking For Lifting And Handling Equipment

Joint venture aims to expand offering and enhance collaboration.

The new LM Handling joint venture between LDD and MENCK combines LDD’s dynamic and fresh approach to offshore solutions with MENCK’s outstanding expertise and track record in piling operations. The venture aims to provide equipment and services either directly to customers or as part of a package led by LDD and MENCK, thereby enabling them to offer a more holistic integrated service and to provide a single point of contact for turnkey support in offshore projects.

This working arrangement brings together specialist engineers, project managers and equipment for critical tasks such as jacket and monopile installation, and subsea construction work.

According to Andrew Paterson, business development manager, LM Handling, the joint venture focuses on helping customers to conduct complex operations more efficiently, both operationally and commercially. “The LDD and MENCK personnel in LM Handling work as a team and the emphasis is always on solving customers’ problems,” he says. “We are currently working on developing new products and services to meet specific industry needs, particularly where there is a limited or ineffective supply.

“Areas we have already identified through close contact with our customers are pile upending and lifting tools, so we are investing heavily in these areas to complement our product range. Hydraulic shackles and pinned and internal lifting tools are just some of the key items.”

The most significant joint development project to date is the StabFrame. This system is the result of collaboration between LDD and MENCK staff. The companies have track records of designing, building and operating their own foundation installation and lifting and handling equipment. This deepwater pile guide and stabilisation frame significantly reduces pile installation risks. By enabling piles to be driven uninterrupted to their intended depth, the StabFrame minimises the need for expensive followers and copes with varying ground conditions that do not rely on a fixed penetration depth. Its primary applications are installing mooring piles for floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) facilities; offshore wind turbine foundations; pipeline initiation piles; and wave and tidal mooring systems.

The fabrication and testing of the StabFrame involved a tight 11-week schedule so that it was ready for transportation from the UK to Brazil for its first project, which was for Wellstream to moor the OSX-1 FPSO facility using the offshore construction vessel Aker Wayfarer.

The Waimea piling operation in the Campos basin, offshore Brazil, the first commercial application of the StabFrame, presented a tough test for the new system. Paterson says, “At Waimea, there were unforeseen soil conditions: a hard crust over soft unsupportive sediment. Some piles went into free fall to varying degrees and at various drive depths. Typical pile support frames open at a predetermined depth where the pile is expected to have achieved self-stability. Here the ground conditions were different than anticipated, so the StabFrame proved its ability to reduce installation risk and delay on its first job.”

The StabFrame was developed to fit a particular market niche and designed for rapid despatch to piling operations around the world. Paterson says, “The StabFrame is designed to DNV standards and has a unique modular design that facilitates rapid assembly, disassembly and maintenance activities. For ease of transportation, we can ship the StabFrame in standard 6- and 12-m open-top ISO containers. We can customise the system for special projects, including, for example, hydraulic levelling. It also offers varying mud mat configurations for better weight distribution to cope with a range of soil conditions and seabed relief.

“The StabFrame’s hydraulic sleeves are operated through a work-class, remotely operated vehicle (WROV). This removes the requirement for an automated release system and enables the StabFrame operator to reactto variations in the expected piling conditions,” Paterson concludes.

There are further installation projects on the way for StabFrame. The system will be used in a North Sea operation during 2013.

Building on the tool’s success, LM Handling is developing a lighter slotted version that significantly reduces costs to customers where piles have a lower pad eye and the pile verticality tolerances allow a shorter central sleeve. The slot enables the pad eye to be driven below the mudline, if required. The frame can be split manually or it can be fitted with the same hydraulic actuation as the StabFrame for customers that prefer additional control if the soil conditions are less predictable.

StabFrame is just one of the lifting and handling systems offered by LM Handling. The pin lifting tool (PLT), for example, offers a very simple, safe and cost-effective option for installation work and can be easily installed in vertical or horizontal piles. The PLT features a simple single pinning system for securing, upending and lifting piles. Once the pile is in place, a person or an WROV typically removes the pin, which releases the PLT from the pile and enables tool recovery. Remote pin actuation systems are also available. PLTs operate both above and below water; the operational water depth is limited only by the WROV’s depth rating.

Collaboration between the two partner companies is clearly a key part of the LM Handling joint venture, but, as Paterson points out, there is another side to the coin. “We are pursuing a very collaborative approach with customers and potential customers. The aim is to identify their needs and find opportunities to improve their operations. This gives us the clearest possible understanding of the challenges they face and enables us to develop the best technical and commercial solutions for their operations while strengthening our offering to the industry.”

The emphasis on a close relationship with customers brings benefits to both sides. “Quite often,” says Paterson, “customers choose to a develop an in-house bespoke piece of lifting, handling or pile stabilisation equipment, use it on a single project and then recover part of the cost to the project by scrapping it. LM Handling offers a different model. By working with the customer in these cases, we can achieve the same outcome for them – a tool that perfectly meets their needs. This means potentially less cash coming out of their project and certainly less hassle, as we can build the tool into our portfolio and reuse it on other projects.

“When we can combine our products with the equipment and services of LDD and MENCK, for example, the Waimea job involved a MENCK hydraulic hammer, we create a compelling offer to customers that meets the goal of reducing hassle and the number of interfaces, both operationally and commercially. LM Handling will continue to expand its range of lifting and handling equipment to suit customers’ requirements. Our aim is to rapidly become a top-of-mind offshore and subsea equipment provider,” Paterson affirms.

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